White collar crime in Estonia rose in 2022, according to Ministry of Justice data, which reports among other things a 53 percent rise in crimes relating to corruption, which totaled 165 cases last year.
Of these, bribery was commonest, with 107 cases; crimes involving the granting of bribes were somewhat more numerous than those of taking a bribe, the ministry says.
The above and following statistics relate to crime at the reporting stage and on which evidence has been gathered, rather than at conviction stage.
Northern District State Prosecutor Janno Reinkort said the rise primarily relates to criminal cases involving immunization passports and also to the Nikolai Ossipenko case, which received widespread media attention and led to the downfall of the municipal government in the Ida-Viru County town of Kohtla-Järve, last autumn.
Reinkort said: "Both criminal cases are in pre-trial proceedings. There are more than 60 suspects in the proceedings relating to [coronavirus] immunization passports, more than 20 of whom have been closed by the prosecutor's office for reasons of expediency and imposed obligations on those who have given bribes. In any area where there is access to the property of the state, local government or any public authority, situations posing a risk of corruption may arise".
"This makes it important that employees in these sectors know how to minimize risks in these areas, recognize threats and, if necessary, venture to inform the police, so that suspicions can be thoroughly checked out," he went on.
After cases of bribery, power trading and operational restriction violations were most common in 2022. An example of the latter concerns an official making a decision concerning themselves, or concerning a person or company related to them.
Last year, crimes committed in the area of healthcare also rose, by 75 percent, to 47, mainly due to forged Covid vaccination certificates, ministry adviser Kätlin-Chris Kruusmaa said.
"Awareness-raising and other prevention activities will bear the best fruit in the long term in the prevention of corruption," she added.
Meanwhile, economic crimes fell, by 51, to 241, in 2022.
Tax offenses accounted for 40 percent of the total, followed by 26 relating to contraband, such as tobacco smuggling.
Fourteen percent of cases involved bankruptcy and enforcement proceedings, 10 percent related to violations of company law and 8 percent to money laundering.
The ministry continues with training both of the private sector and of university and even school students, in how to recognize and prevent corruption; Kätlin-Chris Kruusmaa said that: "We will certainly continue our efforts to ensure that the treatment of corruption issues reaches both universities and secondary schools more and more. It is important that future employees of the private and public sector know how to recognize and head off corruption."
Editor: Andrew Whyte